Tottenham hand over blueprint of weakness to Arsenal ahead of north London derby

Tottenham Hotspur warmed up for their north London derby at home to Arsenal in the worst possible fashion.

Ange Postecoglou’s men were second-best all over the pitch in Saturday’s 4-0 hammering at Newcastle United. They can have no arguments with the result or the wide margin of defeat, no Erik ten Hag-isms about how they actually dominated the game with their possession or smattering of half-chances.


Spurs remain a team and club in transition going from one extreme identity to another, and there are going to be bumps in the road, but this was the first time across Postecoglou’s debut season where you wondered if his stubborn methodology will come to bear tangible fruit.

Their only other thrashings this season have come with caveats or at least explanations. The 4-1 loss to Chelsea came with nine men. A 4-2 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion over the festive period was not representative of the equal game played. Falling 3-0 to Fulham was deserved, but wasn’t a collapse on their principles or ideals.

This, however, was different. Newcastle pounced upon every weakness in Tottenham’s philosophy. You want to play a high line? We’ll run in behind with three quick attackers and make your offside trap redundant. You want to play through us? You’ll have to play through all 11 of us. You think you can coast on physical advantages? We’ll knock you down like a stack of dominos.

Alexander Isak, Micky van de Ven

Yeah, hardly a great day for Van de Ven / George Wood/GettyImages

Micky van de Ven, lauded as Tottenham’s superhero last week and enjoying a phenomenal debut season to this point, was turned to mincemeat by Alexander Isak and then Anthony Gordon for the hosts’ quick-fire double before the break. Pedro Porro and Destiny Udogie, who prior to this season had almost exclusively played as wing-backs in their careers, didn’t cover themselves in glory either.

The mauling continued in the second half when Isak added a third, dragging Van de Ven into the Newcastle half before galloping into the 50 yards of space in front of him. Spurs’ continued shortfalls on set pieces saw them concede a fourth to Fabian Schar from a corner.

Postecoglou, for the most part, has overseen a season of progress and few would have had Spurs fighting for a Champions League spot heading into the campaign, but he also needs to start looking inwardly at his system’s own shortfalls to protect his young players from themselves.

Tottenham end the season with a gauntlet run-in. Up next are rivals Arsenal in a fortnight, before other games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City appear over the horizon. Eesh.

The saving grace for Spurs is they’ve handled themselves with dignity and decorum in every match against the teams above them in the table this season, with the mid-table pack usually the ones having them in a counter-attacking chokehold. There’s an innate survival instinct not to let matches run away from them when they are emboldened in a toe-to-toe encounter.

But an Arsenal team as tactically flexible and domestically rampant as this will be licking their lips at the prospect of running through Tottenham if they leave themselves so vulnerable without good reason again.


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Author: XenBet